by C. Wess Daniels who is the William R Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College. Writing here about Quaker faith, participatory culture and pedagogy, Quaker faith, Christianity in the West & sketchnoting.
There is so much back and forth on Quaker process. So many jokes. So many who easily dismiss it because it “takes a long time.” And outcomes are all that REALLY matter. (I have plenty of examples of Quakers being faithful quickly, taking challenging stands, going against the flow of the status quo in costly ways, and being truly led by the Present Teacher that I have personally witnessed in my own life). My hope is that we can get past these dismissals and learn or re-learn what it means to truly be guided by the Spirit of Life in our meetings, yearly meetings and institutions. My hope is that we will not miss out on the opportunity that faithful meeting for worship for business has given us so many times in the past and present. I think that we sometimes dismiss it because we don’t know it, or understand it, aren’t committed to it, think it’s weird, have experienced it done in wrong or even painful ways, or we are even afraid of it.
I love what Dorsey says here about process vs. outcome and I think she is spot on. I like that she says:
“It’s not what to figure out what everybody thinks will work, it is what we feel led to do as a group.”
“We are looking for, ‘What are we supposed to do here?'”
Process is so important, but even the word “process” reduces down what is actually happening when we sit and listen for God’s guidance together. Words and phrases like surrender, vulnerability, holding my tongue, breathing, paying attention, joining, “yes and…” and revolution, dear God help us, what is it we are missing here, when I think of what happens in the expectant waiting.
In my estimation there are at least three things that make our decision-making difficult today: First, we are not all coming from the same place theologically and we lack a shared understanding of the practice itself. A second is that we are often all working as individuals trying to get the best and most pragmatic idea lobbied for rather than recognizing that we are individuals listening together for the One Voice. It is easy to lack the wherewithal to be patient enough to wait for it and brave enough to act on it when it comes. Third, it is easy to forget that Listening and Action are inextricably linked. I’m not sure if “Quaker process” exists where this chain is broken. If all that is happening is listening with no action, then we are paralyzed by fear or “failure of nerve” or we are just stuck. But this is not “Quaker process.” And if all we do is act all the time than we are just working from a reactive and shallow place.
My hope and prayer is that we will have enough curiosity, wherewithal, and courage to be a people who listen and act.
Before I knew about the word “sketchnote” I had some idea of taking notes and thinking visually. I “bumped” into this idea when I was stuck writing my dissertation and didn’t know where to go with it. I had written out notes tirelessly trying to summarize ideas, arguments, etc, but it wasn’t until I actually sketched the ideas that I had a breakthrough. I have written about that process before, but the main point is that I learned something about myself, the way I think and the way I learn. Drawing, even very simple images, helps my brain make associations that I struggle to do with bare-bones text.
Now, I use this process to create class presentations, as well as a communication tool while I teach. I use it when I take notes during a meeting to help me pay attention, remember key points or just stay awake. I use it when I read books and when I write. In other words, at this point, I sketchnote as often as I can.
I never tire of Jesuit Anthony De Mello’s thoughts and challenges. Here is one that I have been reflecting on recently:
Now think of yourself listening to an orchestra in which the sound of the drum is so loud that nothing else can be heard. To enjoy the symphony you must be responsive to every instrument in the orchestra. To be in the state called love you must be sensitive to the uniqueness and beauty of every single thing and person around you. You can hardly be said to love what you do not even notice; and if you notice only a few beings to the exclusion of others, that is not love at all, for love excludes no one at all; it embraces the whole of life; it listens to the symphony as a whole, not to just one or the other of the musical instruments.
Stop for a while now to see how your attachments drain life’s symphony no less than the politician’s attachment to power and the businessman’s attachment to money have hardened them to the melody of life.
“John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7–9 NRSV)
Usually, when we think and talk about Christmas, we think of it as a time to be together with loved ones. Christmas is the time when school shut down and students return home. It’s a time when the airports are full of hustle and bustle as sons and daughters try to make their way back home with the grandchildren in tow. It’s a time of the equally loved and hated office Christmas parties. There’s carol singing with friends. And at least for me, I can count on gaining at least a few pounds, because of all the baked goods that enter circulation. It’s also a time of great family tradition and religious traditions. I really do love this time of year, I love the opportunity to reflect on the biblical texts that surround this particular narrative. I love considering the Spirit of Christmas.
I love Christmas eve services and yes, I love all the Trader Joe’s Christmas cookies.
If we are fortunate, if things have gone more or less okay in our lives than most of us don’t have to do any of these things alone.
The fireweed flower loves the hurting and dying places. It helps to heal the ground…
During Advent, I want to remember that the frozen soil never forgets Spring.
I want to never forget the light within, and the reality of Jesus in all life, and live into Heaven here and now, as it is, and in so doing to anticipate and feel the truth of Jesus’ words, that it is already here, and that it is coming.
And here and now, I think it looks and feels a lot like bomb craters and industrial clear-cuts ablaze with Fireweed’s purples and reds and greens. And Korean elders singing, holding hands and standing in the way of cement trucks trying to lay foundations for a new naval base on top of their home, Gangjeong Village (Jeju Island, South Korea). And standing in the streets of every major city in the US, demanding a better and more just society in which Black Lives Matter. And learning traditional ways and affirming elders on Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, while crying for the earth and future generations and swearing to do everything in one’s power to stand up to the Keystone Oil snake trying to illegally run through native lands against the people’s wills.
And it looks a whole lot like eating and singing and telling stories together. Face to face.
I believe very strongly in creating a participatory learning environment for students but when it comes to creating a syllabus it seems like the only option is to use the standard “banking” model of education (Freire). As the instructor for a course, I lay out specific texts, assignments and themes for the students to digest in class and organize it in an easy to follow document we call the syllabus. [^1] But I want something that can move beyond this parameter and allow the students to participate in the actual development of the content within the syllabus.
My question is: How do I get the students more involved and interacting with the actual syllabus from its very creation to how it gets used in class throughout the semester?
I have, for most of my life, been someone trying to organize community, bringing people together, and building connections. For a lot of that time, I put emphasis on showing up for one another: presence is key I would say.
I got a monumental lesson in presence twelve years ago. When my step-father committed suicide in 2003, those who were the most helpful during that crisis, were the people who showed up. Those who came and sat with us. Brought the ministry of cookies and casseroles. They offered no grand theories. No trite explanations. What they offered were silent bodies, sitting in prayerful support. Like a silent cloud of witnesses visible to the naked eye. It was here that I learned how presence is the roots and the ligaments of community. It was faithful presence that got us through that dark night. Continue reading Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community